Manchester United to make formal bid for £20m Saints striker Sadio Mane
Manchester United are expected to make a formal bid of more than £20m to sign Southampton's Sadio Mane.
United made an enquiry for the 23-year-old Senegal international last week but Southampton insist he is not for sale and that they will reject any attempt to sign him.
United's initial outline offer is believed to have been around £15m and the club will now make an improved proposal to test that resolve.
Old Trafford sources insist that their continued strong interest in Mane is one of the significant reasons why they did not sign Pedro from Barcelona.
United indicated that manager Louis van Gaal remained unsure about Pedro and has preferred to step up his interest in Mane, with the club expected to bid more than the sum Chelsea paid for the Barcelona player.
Mane enjoyed an outstanding first season in the Premier League - including scoring the fastest hat-trick in the league's history - after his move to England last summer.
He cost £10m from Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg and, although Southampton would more than double their money in a year on the striker, there is no pressure to sell at one of the best-run clubs in the Premier League.
Mane has three years left on his contract at Southampton, where he is one of the more highly paid players, but there will be concern that his head might be turned by United's interest.
Van Gaal regards the pacy Mane as a player who will only get better and will be a bigger asset to his squad than Pedro (28).
United have come in for fierce criticism following Pedro's move to Chelsea given that the club's executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, travelled to Barcelona on Monday.
However, United insist that, if they had been desperate to sign Pedro, they would have closed the deal three weeks ago by triggering his buy-out clause, adding that Van Gaal wanted to continue to look at other targets and was stalling. Hence the interest in Mane.
This interpretation has been met with scepticism, although it is hard to believe, as has been claimed, that United were quibbling over the payment schedule.
It could be that they sensed Pedro was not fully committed to joining them which, with Van Gaal's misgivings, does credibly explain why negotiations dragged.
Either way the World Cup and Champions League winner is now a Chelsea player, with the focus again turning on Woodward despite United having signed Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian, Sergio Romero, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin this summer.
With the discontent among some supporters over not signing Pedro, and with goalkeeper David De Gea's future in the balance, it could again move from being a good summer to a questionable one for United and Woodward, with the club having taken a £10.7m hit on Angel Di Maria's move to PSG.
United have held firm in insisting Real Madrid pay a world-record fee (in excess of £32.5m) for De Gea and, although they were accused of having been used by Sergio Ramos, who then secured a bumper new deal at Real, the club insist that signing the defender was always seen as a bonus.
They never assumed it would happen.
If United keep De Gea and land at least one more big signing then Woodward's tactics may be seen to have been vindicated. (© Daily Telegraph, London)